Contact centers very frequently start small and evolve leading to silod operations that are built around lines of business or geographic areas.
As businesses grow additional centers are often added or outsource partners brought-in to gain ‘speed-to-market’ or create extra capacity at a lower cost. This brings higher levels of complexity and increasing potential for customer and employee frustration.
In order to keep the contact centers ‘focused’ on answering customers any work that cannot be handled there is then passed off to other administration teams; the Back Office.
With so many silos there are many opportunities for a break down in service which again can lead to customer frustration and lowered staff morale, a vicious circle that will ultimately drive customers and your best contact center resources away.
Here are four steps for moving from this unfortunate cycle.
Step 1 – Break up the Lines of Business and Geography
A silo is often developed because it’s considered easier to manage or quicker to deploy when, for instance, marketing informs you of a new launch or region. The skills of the resource pool however are often ‘wider’ than the silo they are in.
People have skills to handle a transaction and customers don’t care where they work or for which product line they are assigned. If an employee has a skill then it should be available to use.
Skills may be for products, geographies, languages or contact handling, such as with telephony or email. These are attributes of the individual, not of where they are in a geographical sense or of the contact routing technology (like queues) – they should be linked to the person and not the other way around!
This allows work to be distributed to them based on what they know and can do.
Step 2 – Embrace the Outsource Partners
Often when outsourcers are introduced the contracts are simply based on an agreed number of calls per hour or an agreed number of seat positions available at a particular time of the day. This leads to a knowledge disconnect regarding what is happening at the outsourcer; whether they are staffing properly, or whether their resources are effective and efficient.
Bringing the outsourced resources within their contact routing and reporting environment enables:
- The business to know what’s happening at any moment
- Monitoring of performance and quality management across all resources
- Increased availability of resources
- Better shrinkage planning
- Customers to be sent to the best available associate wherever they are
Step 3 – Bring in the Branches and Retail Stores
Many businesses have contact centers and a network of branches or stores. These branches or stores are filled with knowledgeable employees who when they are not dealing with customers can have their skills underutilized.
By including these staff members into the pool of people able to handle inbound contacts when they are free can significantly increase the amount of available resources. Whether these are bank branches, travel agencies or specialist retail stores there are experts there who could easily handle customer contact when available.
Step 4 – Enable the Back Office
At the beginning of this post I mentioned that a group of people who had been set aside to handle the more complex tasks that would take too long to complete on the phone by the Contact Center; the Back Office.
These are often highly skilled associates and their knowledge is of great value. Once again, like with the branches and stores, there are times when these employees may not be fully utilized and their skills could be used to handle customer contacts.
Recognise that people have skills and that it doesn’t matter where they are in the organization, they could use them to improve the customer experience.
In the book “Uncommon Service” by Frances Frei and Anne Morris, truth number two states “Someone has to pay for it.” They talk of four ways to fund a premium service experience:
- Get customers to pay you extra for it
- Reduce costs in ways that also improve service
- Improve service in ways that reduce cost
- Get customers to enjoy doing some of the work for you
Virtualization across the broader organization supports number two by delivering a premium service experience and pays for it with better utilization of all available resources.
To learn more about how you can drive more efficiency and cost savings into your contact center operations visit here
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